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TBA Online: News & Features: March 2015

Art & Craft: Fitness for Busy Actors

Friday, March 13, 2015   (0 Comments)
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By Kathryn Zdan

Health and fitness have always been a top priority for me. As actors, our bodies are our primary tools for expression. Without our bodies (and I count our voices as part of our bodies) we are incapable of sharing the stories we live to tell. However, when you're supporting yourself on a strict budget, juggling multiple gigs (or even careers), relationships, and families, an expensive gym or yoga studio membership (not to mention time with coaches, trainers, or body-workers) can feel like luxury items; we simply can't afford the money or the time.

I struggled for years to find sustainable ways to incorporate exercise and conditioning into my daily life. And while I did learn a bunch stumbling along and making a lot of mistakes, two years ago I met someone who completely rocked my fitness world. With a master's degree in Health Psychology and a seriously impressive resume of certifications, training, and experience, Coach Stevo has radically changed the way I think about health and fitness. Full disclosure: Coach Stevo also happens to be my boyfriend. But I have great news! You don't have to date a fitness professional whose best buddies are all world-class trainers and Olympic weight lifters, because I'm here to share some of the most important things I've learned about myself hanging out and working out with fitness professionals.


Photo taken on the street in front of Stevo's house (a.k.a. the Center for Unity, Nutrition, and Training) and I'm holding approximately 53 pounds overhead in one hand. Yay, strength!

1. It doesn't have to be insane
Oh, you're not an elite, Olympic-level athlete? Then I have great news for you. Don't listen to the Internet, asinine "fitspiration" posts, and/or douchebag trainers - you don't have to push yourself to the breaking point in order to have a successful workout. Over the years, my fitness goals have shifted from "I want to have six-pack abs and sub-zero body fat!" to "I want to be healthy, happy and mobile for as many years of my life as possible!" Thinking about who I want to be rather than short-term desires really helps to keep me uninjured, and focused on what's healthy and reasonable. 

2. It has to be fun
"Motivation" is not a clean-burning energy source. If my exercise routine does not add enjoyment to my already very busy day, then guess what? I'm not going to do it. For example, I tried for years to make running a fitness habit (because it's free!) but struggled to successfully integrate it into my life for more than a couple weeks at a time because I simply don't like doing it. However, I made one small tweak that made an enormous difference: I switched from running to hiking. Same cardiovascular benefits, same equipment, but a different environment. Running felt like a chore, but hiking felt like a treat. Find an activity that you enjoy!


Try hiking! (Photo: the Palomarin Trail in West Marin right near Bass Lake.)


Try yoga! (Photo: Loka Yoga studio in Oakland.)


Try both at once! (Photo: a trail in the mountains above Santa Fe, NM. Because sometimes I stop in the middle of a hike to do yoga poses.)


3. Convenience is key
For a couple years I cultivated a sweet home yoga practice that was enhanced by instructional videos. And whether your bag is yoga, Pilates, martial arts, barre method, P90X, kickboxing, or jazzercise, there are tons of DVDs, YouTube channels, and even apps for that. I found that my DVD yoga home practice was sustainable, enjoyable and effective, especially when supplemented by classes at studios every once in a while when my budget allowed. Convenience is awesome, but remember: keep it fun!

4. Money isn't the only resource you have to offer
Two years ago I started doing work-trade for classes at my favorite local yoga studio, Loka Yoga. Two mornings a week, I greet students and sign them in and then clean up the studio afterward, and in return I get free classes with some of the best yoga teachers in the Bay Area. (Incidentally, Loka has recently expanded their class schedule and is looking for folks for desk shifts. Get on it.) Many smaller studios and gyms have work-trade opportunities.

5. It doesn't have to be expensive
Loka yoga also offers "community classes" that are less expensive than regular classes, even though they're taught by the same instructors. Check your local studios and gyms to see if they offer community classes, or discounted rates for teachers or low-income clients. Also, any of you who happen to be my Facebook friend know that I work out with kettlebells in the backyard most mornings. Friends and colleagues join Coach Stevo whenever they want for free classes. In return, Coach Stevo gets a reason to wake up and work out. Which leads me to #6…

6. Find a buddy or a community
Working out with other people means that exercise time is also social time. But there is another, perhaps even more effective benefit to working out with others: accountability. If there is a person or a group of people counting on you to show up, you are much more likely to arrive.

7. It doesn't have to be time-consuming
Unless you are training for a major athletic event, 15-30 minutes of exercise four to five times a week is great. I lift weights in the back yard (see #3 and #5!) with friends (see #6!) four days a week for about 30 minutes (but sometimes as few as five minutes!). The workouts are hard enough that I feel a sense of pride when I'm finished, but easy enough that I have the energy and ability to get up and do it again the next day. And that is the ultimate goal.

By creating an exercise regimen that is reasonable, inexpensive, convenient, and fun, you will be able to be at the top of your game as an actor. And incidentally, you will have cultivated habits that will keep you happy and healthy for a lifetime.



Kathryn Zdan is an actor, singer, mover, and teacher. Next up, see her in The Way West at Marin Theatre Company, and then as Ada Lovelace in the world premiere of Lauren Gunderson's Ada and the Engine at CentralWorks.